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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘heart’

Light In The Face Of Darkness

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

As I write these words I am still in my new adopted home. Originally I came to my wonderful friends’ warm apartment with the intention of staying just overnight and I did not even bother packing. My children kept pressuring me – “Ima, you have to go!”

My daughter who lives just a few blocks from me was going to move in with a friend who had a generator and she asked that I come with her. But I planned to wait Hurricane Sandy out. I was confident that while it would be a very intense storm it would not require evacuation. Just the same, all my children kept pressuring me. “Ima,” they pleaded, “you cannot stay in the house.”

My son who lives in a neighboring community was going to Brooklyn to my children there. Baruch Hashem, they all have large families, children and grandchildren. Their houses were full but they lovingly insisted I join them. I was debating in my mind what to do when my very kind talmidah – my Torah daughter – called and begged that I come to her. Not wanting to place added pressure to my children, I decided to accept her loving invitation.

When morning came it was not the dawn’s light that awakened me but the nightmarish news that my community and countless others were under attack by the merciless Frankenstorm that was leaving total devastation in its wake. I heard that ten feet of water flooded the lower level of my home but that was the least of my concerns. There was only one concern in my heart, and that was for my children who stayed behind and the countless other children and families there. I kept repeating to myself, “Ribbono shel Olam, Ribbono shel Olam.” Every few minutes I called my children, though usually I could not get through.

So it was with a trembling heart and tears flowing down my face that I davened and then davened some more. As the days passed and more and more painful and horrific stories emerged, my tears and my fears also increased.

Many of you know that every Thursday night I teach Torah at the Hineni Heritage Center on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It was now Wednesday and the immediate dilemma facing me was whether we should close down or keep our doors open and the classes going.

It wasn’t a hard call. Of course we would have to stay open. If ever there was a time we had to gather together, it was now. It did not matter how many or how few would come. We had to raise our voices in prayer, with Tehillim and the study of Torah. No matter what is going on around us, davening and Torah study must continue. Those are our only weapons, our only salvation, our only hope for help.

I have had good training; I know from whence I speak. I learned in the best of universities that majored in cruelty – Hitler’s concentration camps. My daughter once said, “Ima, no matter what the topic, no matter what the situation, you always go back to those days of Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen.”

I had never been consciously aware of it, but as soon as she mentioned it I realized she was so right. Sadly, most of us who were there are no longer here to tell the story, and most of those who are here are elderly or infirm and can no longer speak out. So yes, I do go back and I do tell the story and I can never forget.

In that dire darkness, in that pit of hopelessness, my saintly father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, taught me to never to give up, never to forget that prayers can awaken the dawn and Torah can be brighter then the sun. Through Torah and prayers the sun can shine again and our worlds can be illuminated.

Our Sages teach us “ein doma – there is no comparison to that which you hear and that which you see.” My daughter, who was there with her family, saw the terror and devastation with her own eyes and experienced it with her own heart and mind. Next week I will share excerpts from her diary.

The Journey

Friday, November 9th, 2012

They say the flight went down, because it was too cold,
The weather had been changing, but i was never told,
Now I’m alone and I’m freezing, at the bottom of the sea,
There only was one parachute, and it wasn’t for me,
You always kept it, hidden in your heart,
A secret escape, you held since the start,
And i remember the start, the plane took off so strong,
Using skill and determination, to overcome when things went wrong,
But later you stopped driving, and the job was left to me,
With no co-captain at the helm, the plane fell to the sea,
Now I’m freezing, at the bottom of the ocean floor,
My heart begins to slow, and i am almost sure,
That a part of me is dying, a part nourished and grown,
Sitting here in silence, just getting used to being alone….

Jewish Press Election Night Live Chat

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

This is for political junkies and their loved ones: if you are bursting with meaningful stuff to say about the elections and your local bar is closed down, or you don’t have a local bar in your neighborhood, or you would rather be doing your political bar brawling from the safety of your apartment, but you just have to share with national-religious, conservative Jews and their friendly others – come to the Jewish Press Election Chat online.

You’ll need to log in on the top-right corner of your screen at or just before 9 PM New York time, or 4 AM Jerusalem time. Enter and start sharing – but, please, ladies and gentlemen, we don’t need more Obama put-downs, or broad generalizations about the comparative intelligence of conservatives and liberals. What we need are good, interesting, funny and real observations. You can talk back and refute stuff to your heart’s content, but do be civil. Remember, the moderator has the power to take away your chat privileges if you misbehave.

We’re looking forward to chatting with you tonight – and let’s hope America gets the chief executive she deserves.

Good night, stock up on chips and salsa and beer (if your mom says it’s ok) – and let us celebrate democracy!

The players and managers of the JewishPress.com

Medicinal Cannabis and Dr. Johnny

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Toward the end of his life, my father suffered indescribable pain. He was at the stage where the doctors in the oncology ward focus on other patients, and you run – helpless and harried – between doctors who don’t know how to work outside the book. “Your father is finished, we’ve done all that we can,” they would say, adding, “Johnny. Talk to Johnny.”

The government recently closed Dr. Johnny Greenfield’s pain clinic in the Tel Hashomer hospital. It was only from the media reports that I realized that Johnny is a highly respected oncologist. There, in the hospital, he would sit behind a tiny table in a tiny cubicle, helping his pain-wracked patients. In that tiny room, he was simply Johnny.

Johnny would talk to my father. He would calm him. He would explain that it is legitimate to want the pain to stop. My eyes fill with tears when I remember those searing moments. Johnny is one of those people who are really card-carrying angels.

And Johnny helped – a lot. More than the medicinal cannabis that he prescribed for my father, he helped with his love for others and his completely unorthodox approach. No “Do these tests and come back with the results,” and the authorizations and all the running around that turns people suffering their most difficult moments into miserable mice running down unfamiliar halls, pushing and pressured between all the other equally miserable people. Anyone who has experienced this can understand what I am talking about.

Johnny wants the pain to stop. He is a professional and explains the exact implications of each drug, telling my father what part of his cognizance may be impaired and the consequences of every drug he offered. He is a true healer. For the first time in a long time, my father relaxed. The cruel world suddenly looked different. A world with a person like Johnny looks beautiful, nurturing and warm.

After a few meetings, I told Johnny that I had read that Israel is one of the leading countries in its use of medicinal cannabis. Johnny didn’t have to hear more than that to pour his heart out. He spoke of all the patients who could not get treatment, and about how good cannabis and cannabis products would be for a vast array of illnesses. Perhaps the economic interest of the drug companies has something to do with the obstacles that the state places in the path of those who wish to be treated by this amazing drug. “I believe that if God created it, he did it so that we can use it,” I say to him.

Since my father died, I have not heard from Johnny. Suddenly this man, considered an angel by so many, is publicly denounced.

Have a good, sweet year, Johnny. It makes no difference what they write. In your merit, there are so many people that can smile a little bit at the end of their lives.

Fit And Trim

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Dear Tanya,

There are some diet delivery services that are kosher. Do you recommend I try them? In the past, one of the reasons I had a hard time sticking to a diet was because I hate preparing for myself, and when life gets hectic I just don’t have the time.

Signed,
Do I?

Dear Do I?,

From what you are saying, it sounds like you would benefit from this type of service. Many women would prepare a three course, customized meal for any member of their family, but when it comes to ourselves, we get lazy and find every excuse not to do it. With a kosher diet home delivery service, all the work is done for you. Although the price may seem high, it really isn’t if you consider how much you spend on groceries and take out. Plus, long term you save money – if it works for you then you won’t have to keep spending money on a nutritionist or a fitness program. The key is not to eat anything outside of these meals (unless it is required in the program). Be sure to do your research, as not all the diet services are the same. Find a program recommended by a qualified nutritionist and make sure the food is not only kosher, but tasty as well so that you enjoy it.

Dear Tanya,

I’m wondering if it’s possible to target a specific area of my body, without working other areas. I am short on time so when I exercise, I want to target the areas that bother me the most.

In need of target

Dear in need of target,

As good as it may sound, the results of targeting specific areas for reducing or even muscle building, are usually disappointing and often prove to be of little or no use. The only body part that shows any real potential for spot training are the ab muscles. The reason is that the storage areas for your excessive weight are predetermined and genetically imprinted. These areas are the first to show gains and last to show losses. This is not to say you cannot lose fat in these areas, but change require an approach that burns calories overall, which, in turn, affects these specific areas. Spot building by targeting a certain muscle or muscle group can have slight benefits, but the results are more often marginal due again to individual genetics. The best way then to see results is to eat a good healthy diet, and to make sure that your workout includes fat burning cardio as well as toning for all areas of your body.

Dear Tanya,

How do I get more energy? I am so tired all the time. I tried coffee and even caffeine pills and they don’t seem to help much, maybe just a bit short term. Any suggestions?

In need of energy

Dear In need of energy,

Your energy throughout the day is affected by many different factors. The most common include overall health, mental stress, sleeping patterns, activity/inactivity, diet, prescriptions, drugs & alcohol.

Sleep: Obviously, if you are not sleeping well, your energy levels will be directly affected. We need 6-8 hours of sleep per day. Though everyone is a little different, most of us fall into this category. If you are not sleeping at least 6 hours a day, you are most likely dealing with sleep deprivation.

Stress: Not allowing your mind to relax from everyday concerns at the job, at home, in life, relationships and uncontrollable events will deplete your body’s immune response and make you susceptible to increased sickness/illness/disease as well as rob you of daily energy levels.

Activity: We need to be active enough to sleep better & lessen stress, as well as increase our metabolism, which in turn provides more energy. The more active you become, the more energetic you feel (as long as you get sufficient rest between workouts). The increase in activity also burns more calories, which assists in weight loss.

Diet: Your diet has enormous effects on your energy levels throughout the day. It is advisable to start every morning with a full glass of water, some type of fruit or yogurt, or oatmeal. Few of us have an hour-long lunch. But for those who do, this is an ideal time to get some energy through activity. If possible, get in a 40-minute workout/walk/jog/run or 30 minute swim/aerobic type class followed by a 10 minute cool down. Lunch can be taken back to the site, office or desk for leisurely consumption.

Why Me…Why Not me?

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Just a few short days ago we were in summer mode, vacationing in the mountains, at the cottage, or on the road visiting family, friends or sightseeing. But with the start of September and school, we become all to aware that the Yamim Noraim – the Days of Awe – are upon us, that sobering period of time when a year’s worth of our actions and activities will be evaluated by our Creator. His ultimate assessment and judgement will affect the quality and quantity of the days of our lives.

For the Jewish people, it is a time to look inward and contemplate with equal parts of hope and dread what kind of year awaits us.

For some, the prayers and requests offered up last year did not have the outcome they so fervently asked for. Sadly, there are individuals, families and communities that have suffered life-shattering events. Many are still reeling from horrific news or events which occurred years before. They or those they love suffered unexpected serious injury or loss of life through accidents, violence or disease.

Others are dealing with more recent devastating news – that they or a loved one has a serious illness or affliction; lost their parnassah; some have had their hopes cruelly dashed by yet another miscarriage or mourn month after month for a pregnancy that never happens.

As is natural, their first reaction after they catch their breath from the blow they received is, “Why me? Why me?

The only way to perhaps answer this question – one that has been asked for thousands of years by slave and king alike – is to take yourself out of the situation and ask yourself, “Why not me?

Is there something that separates you from your friend, neighbor, fellow Jew or from the rest of humanity?

Do you have a greater number of good deeds than everyone else? Are you so much more special or outstanding or more needed than the rest of the klal that you should be immune from misfortune?

You know the answer. No, you are not better, nor more elevated than other human beings. You are just another noodle in the pot – indiscernible from the others.

The reality is that man is totally clueless as to why G-d allows unbearable tragedy to strike.

Some people may have be arrogant enough to assign a reason for why Hashem does not stop an unspeakable misfortune from occurring, but the truth is how could any mortal know Hashem’s will and be able to say that things happen for this or that “sin?”

Some who are more modest in their self-assessment have theorized (not insisted) that suffering may be a tikun, a rectification for actions done in a past life, however, at the end of the day, Hashem’s ways are inscrutable.

While it is very human, if you or someone you love is in pain, to try to understand why, ask yourself this question – if you were to win a multi-million dollar lottery, would you also scream out, “Why me?” Would you question why Hashem singled you out from all others? And when it is someone else’s face smiling as he holds the check with the one and the endless zeros following it, would you not sigh, “Why not me?”

Many great minds have wondered why bad things happen to good (read ordinary) people, undistinguishable both in deeds and lifestyle from millions of others. There is no answer. Only the Master of the Universe knows the “why” of what happens to His creations. After all he is the Celestial Architect and Judaism teaches that He orchestrates every detail of our existence. The only free will we have in this matter is how we react to our good and bad fortune.

Obsessing over “why me?” is futile, and takes away from your ability to handle (survive) whatever it is you are dealing with.

I have come to the conclusion that those afflicted with great misfortune have been given the rare opportunity to perform perhaps the hardest and most sacred mitzvah there is – the one found in Shema. The Shema is the ultimate affirmation of a Jew’s faith. Throughout our tragic history of persecution and brutalization, the last words gasped by our dying martyrs has been, “Hear O Israel, Hashem, our G-d, is One.” The pasuk that follows describes the hardest mitzvah to obey – “And you will love Hashem your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength.”

‘To Be A Bee Or Not To Be, A Bee’

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

“Dip the apple in the honey
Make a bracha loud and clear
Shana Tova Umesuka[1]
Have a happy, sweet new year”

An elderly carpenter was eagerly preparing for retirement. When he informed his employer/contractor of his plans, the employer asked him if he could do him a personal favor and build one more house before he left. After so many years of working together the carpenter felt he could not refuse, and so he begrudgingly agreed. It quickly became apparent that the carpenter’s heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and he used inferior quality materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.

When the carpenter finished the house he informed his employer that the job was done. The employer smiled and handed the key to the front door to the carpenter.

“This is your house,” the employer said, “It is my personal gift to you, with gratitude for your dedication and work for so many years.”

The carpenter was crestfallen! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have built it so differently. Now he would be living in a substandard home with no one to blame but himself.

We are the carpenters constructing our own lives. “Life is a do-it-yourself project.” The attitudes and choices we make throughout our lives are the nails, boards, and walls that compose the “house” we live in tomorrow. We would be wise to build carefully and adroitly!

One of the most famous aspects of Rosh Hashanah is the universally accepted custom to eat symbolic foods on the eve of the holiday, and to recite prayers which incorporate a play on words with the Hebrew name of the food, to ask G-d for various blessings during the coming year. Arguably, the most beloved is dipping challah and an apple into honey and petitioning G-d for a sweet new year. In fact, along with the shofar, honey is a symbol of Rosh Hashanah and of our deepest hopes for a happy and healthy new year.

Perhaps there is a deeper connection and meaning in the custom to “dip in honey” on Rosh Hashanah than the mere fact that honey is sweet. The very manner in which bee-honey[2] is produced serves as a powerful lesson for our main objective and focus on Rosh Hashanah.

Honeybees use nectar from flowers to make honey. Nectar is almost 80% water with some complex sugars. In North America, bees get nectar from flowers like clovers, dandelions, berry bushes, and fruit tree blossoms. (Different colors and flavors of honey are primarily based on what kind of flowers the bees use to produce their honey.)

The bees use their long, tube like tongues as straws to suck the nectar out of the flowers. Then they store it in their “honey stomachs.” (Bees actually have two stomachs, their honey stomach which they use like a nectar backpack and their regular stomach.) When the honey stomach is full it weighs almost as much as the bee does. Honeybees must visit between 100 and 1500 flowers in order to fill their honey stomachs.

The honeybees return to the hive and pass the nectar onto other worker bees. These bees suck the nectar from the honeybee’s stomach through their mouths. These “house bees” “chew” the nectar for about half an hour. During this time, enzymes are breaking the complex sugars in the nectar into simple sugars so that it is both more digestible for the bees and less likely to be attacked by bacteria while it is stored within the hive.

The bees then spread the nectar throughout the honeycombs where water evaporates from it, making it into a thicker syrup. The bees help the nectar dry faster by fanning it with their wings. Once the honey is gooey enough, the bees seal off the cell of the honeycomb with a plug of wax. The honey is stored until it is eaten. In one year, a colony of bees eats between 120 and 200 pounds of honey.

Honey is created from a transformation that occurs within the bee. The bee gathers the raw materials and then works intensely to abet the process and ensure that it is completed. The process of teshuva – repentance, which begins on Rosh Hashanah – is not simply about going through the motions. Rather, it is a deeply internal and personal process. It is primarily a transformation that occurs within a person’s heart and mind, and includes a commitment to growth and improvement.

A Mother’s Prayer

Friday, September 7th, 2012

You brightened my life when you entered my world
My child, my treasure, my glittering pearl.
I held you and rocked you, safe in my arms
Dreaming I’d keep you safe from all harm.

I watched you and tended your needs day and night
Never letting you out of my sight,
You grew and you played, alive and carefree
Embracing each miracle your eyes did see.

Laughing and loving, you crawled, stood, and walked
Stringing words into sentences, you learned how to talk,
My child forever, our bond is so close
Yet somehow that chest of memoirs has been closed.

Now autumn leaves of crimson and gold
Whisper a story as yet untold,
It is time for you to leave my cocoon
To learn to sing a different tune.

I see your eyes shining, mirroring high hopes
Your first day of school, of climbing new slopes,
Crisply dressed, you wait near the door
I feel a prayer flutter- what lies in store?
Will the teacher be gentle, nurturing and kind?
Will s\he listen when something weighs on your mind?
Will the teacher help you create and expand?
Or will s\he be harsh and insist on demands?

Will your spirit be prodded to grow and climb higher?
Will your heart swell and feel inspired?
And the children, your peers, will they be warm and inviting?
Will they use manners sadistic and biting?
Will your smile grow wide in a circle of friends?
Or will your heart shatter, its fabric rent?

A flower needs sunlight and warmth to grow
Not winter winds to cast it down low,
And you, my child, how will you act?
Will you always speak with kindness and tact?
Do you know that with each day’s gift comes a test
And Hashem wants to see that you do your best?

Will you remember the lessons I taught you at home?
The lessons I taught you as you have grown?
Will you respect a teacher if you disagree?
Obey if your heart calls out differently?
Will you lend a hand to someone in need?
No matter the person’s background or creed?
When someone insults you, makes you feel down
Will you judge them with favor and not rebound?
Will you have the strength to leave the crowd
If they want to do something that’s not allowed?
If you do poorly on one of your tests
Will you try again with courage and zest?

As you stand, my child, and wait near my door
My heart is aflutter, what lies in store?
I wish you a year filled with success
A year where your every effort is blessed
I wish you moments and days filled with light
Brimming with joy and sunshine so bright.

May your mind learn Torah and follow its ways
May your lips whisper prayers as you walk through your days
May your hands reach out to others in need
Helping them with warm words or by deed
May you know your talents so you can achieve
Spread your wings and fly – believe!

As part of my heart cries, “Please don’t go”
The other rejoices to see you grow
Remember I’m here for you as I was then
To listen, to soothe again and again
I will wait for you when you get home
I am your mother- you are never alone.

May Hashem be your guide as you journey forward
Wide-eyed with wonder, sailing new waters.
My heart throbs in prayer with words unspoken
Hoping that you’ll be molded, not broken.
My lips graze your cheek on this, your first day
I watch you leave and continue to pray.
I will wait near the door, my precious child
Feeling some tears, yet also a smile,
Hoping and dreaming as you live and learn
May Hashem bless you, for that my heart yearns.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/back-to-school/a-mothers-prayer/2012/09/07/

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